Achievement of public and non-Catholic private high school students within a matched sample

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Virginia Tech


Over the past six years, analyses of the National Center for Education Statistics' High School and Beyond data have primarily focused on the differences in achievement between public and Catholic high school students. Valuable data on non-Catholic private school students have been virtually ignored. Based on a strategy proposed by Althauser and Rubin (1970), in this study non-Catholic private schools are matched with public schools similar in school average base year student achievement levels, school average base year student socioeconomic levels, geographic region and racial composition. T-test results show that, among students in the most similar matches, non-Catholic private school students score significantly higher on vocabulary, reading, and a test composite of vocabulary, reading and general math scores. Public/non-Catholic private differences in basic and advanced math, science and civics are not significant although all but the civics tests show a small non-Catholic private advantage. The multiple regression analyses suggest that, for the most closely matched pairs, non-Catholic private school students have a small statistically significant advantage over public students on the 1982 reading test and test composite. However, the non-Catholic private advantage on general math, science, vocabulary and writing tests, and the public advantage on the advanced math and civics tests, are not significant. Thus, the null hypothesis stating that there are no differences between the 1982 achievement test scores of students in public schools and the tests scores of students in non-Catholic private schools is generally refuted. Yet, the differences, primarily favoring non-Catholic private school students, are small and in many cases not significant.